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Close to Home: Breaking a deadly driving habit

Sadly, the consequences of distracted driving are fresh in our minds and raw in our hearts following the horrific collision that recently took the lives of two wonderful members of our community — Sue and Sharon Hufford.

Sue and her husband, Jay, were dear friends of mine back when I was a young mother and new to Santa Rosa. My heart aches for Jay's losses. In a matter of a few seconds, one reportedly distracted driver's indiscretion took from Jay his wife and the mother of his three children. Jay also lost his own mother in the crash and his father, Donald, was critically injured and lost his wife.

Tragedies like this have a broad ripple effect. Sue Hufford was a beloved music teacher in the Mark West Union School District, and there are now many parents struggling to explain to their children why she is no longer with them. Sue's and Sharon's family and friends will have to sit in traffic next to drivers who are texting only to be reminded that these careless drivers are taking lethal risks that may shatter more lives.

There are no words that do justice to the shared loss and anger we feel in the face of this tragedy, which, by all appearances, was 100 percent preventable.

In 2011, I was motivated to create a countywide coalition to address the escalating problem of distracted driving after a 2-year-old girl named Calli Murray was hit and killed by a young driver who was texting. Calli's mother was also left horribly disabled from the accident.

The Sonoma County Safe Streets Coalition is composed of law enforcement agencies, Safe Routes to School, the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition and county health and transportation agencies. And while we have been hard at work in our campaign and efforts to decrease distracted driving, there is no doubt we need to be more aggressive in getting our message out.

Who among us doesn't know by now that texting and driving is dangerous? And yet about 31 percent of Americans ages 18 to 64 have texted while driving in the past month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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